In my article Why the Web is Killing Creativity in Design I argued that the so called “web 2.0” aesthetic has actually caused more problems than good for designers. This article proved to be a huge success and has been one of the most popular articles I have written for Positive Space. Earlier today, reader Robert Ross posted an amazing response in support of my post that comes along with 40 years of experience. His response is amazingly well written, so well in fact that I felt it was deserving of its own post. This response also reinforces the idea that if we as designers really want to utilize our talents to their fullest we should create the opportunity for ourselves, which Robert has done this through his website Raw Food Life.
So without further introduction, here is Robert’s response:
Needless to say all the engineering type, and those leaning that way, think that you are wrong, and that the web is about technology, interactivity, architecture or something like that. Nothing could be further from the truth. The web, with all its tech, is only about one thing – communication. And all the arts, and to some degree the sciences, of communication are what makes the web happen and what makes it such a profound opportunity for humanity – if we don’t let the corporate interests completely currupt it into a glitzy high tech Yellow Pages.
I have been in advertising/marketing for 40 years, and I can assure you more technology, faster technology and shinier technology has not changed human nature. What makes humans unique among mamme ls is our ability to communicate – and not just about where the food is – but about things that inspire us, fascinate us, motivate us, scare us and otherwise impact our lives. We share our lives with each other,interact together, talk with people we know and dance those we don’t. We do this with communication, which of course has always been interactive. And we do this best when we are creative – in word or in print, in writing or in scultpure – and yes, sometimes even in elegant coding or beautiful buildings. All the internet does is enhance our ability to share.
But the internet has done something else – allowing us to measure every click, every purchase, every search, and every minute we spend browsing. Aside from privacy considerations, this unprecedented level of data accumulation, combined with greed and profit motive, (temporarily I hope) has created a FALSE impression among “clients,” that they can measure their success. Data mining or Metrics, to use a buzzword, has supplanted creativity, for the moment, as King ,of the Internet Hill.
As a marketing guy, I have read dozens of pages daily for years on internet marketing. Almost none of it mentions creativity. All the “scientific” analysis of the data doesn’t even consider creativity a variable (after all, it cannot be measured easily). And with a significant variable missed, the science involved is all junk science. When the “content” is actually considered, it is just as part of a Taguchi test in which a thousand or ten thousand headlines, pictures and other variables are all tested to see which one performs best. Did you know that email capture forms work best when they have square corners, NOT rounded corners? True! But if you “believe” in the religion of that data (i.e., techno-bible, i.e., techno-babble) you will never again work up the courage to use rounded corners on a form. And that is when your creativity dies.
Is there some absolute fact of human nature that says rounded corners are not good for us? Do we intrinsically fear “rounded” corners? Perhaps it is genetic?
On the other hand, rounded corners are what we perceive in nature. It is the square corner that is unnatural. I have no idea what that means! Insofar as this one test, on one website, with a specific marketing strategy for a specific demographic, it probably means nothing. But try telling that to the new believers, those that think the internet is about an architecture or technology.
So, my response to all this is to late in life change my career. I have been a “creative” for decades, in both copy and graphics. But it won’t sell. Most clients won’t pay what it is worth (at least the one’s I have met) and the rest have unfulfillable expectations about what they want. I cannot compete with people who don’t realize that the quality and creativity of the “content” is the most important investment they can make in their website. They’re happy to invest tens of thousands of dollars in programming, but want to buy all their copywriting for $5 an article on outsourcing websites where I would have to (and did for a short while) compete with people in countries with a cost of living just a fraction of mine (from China and Latvia to Russia and Africa).
So instead, I have taken another passion of mine, raw natural food, and decided to make that my new business. I love writing about it, and unintentionally my old website (started in 1998) has become number one on many Google searches and has been one of the top raw food websites in terms of traffic – so I am turning that now into my business. I’ll be creative all I want on my own website, and nobody can tell me not to. That may be the only true creative outlet left for us…which may be why blogs are so popular. Anyway, you can find me there doing my thing.